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Teesside teacher's robot invention set to transform STEM learning

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A tech-savvy Teesside tutor has launched a micro robotics kit that is set to transform STEM learning.

Dr Anwar Bashir, computing tutor at Middlesbrough College, has been developing the hardware for the past five years in a bid to inspire the next generation to learn new skills.

And now, his MicroPi Starter Kit, which is designed to take the complexity out of computer programming, will allow budding robotics engineers to learn about the ‘Internet of Things’ and create systems for all sorts of clever functions.

It will also remove difficulties faced by computing teachers who currently use multiple pieces of complex kit by giving them the ability to get learners working on practical projects within minutes.

Anwar explained: “When I was younger, I was influenced and inspired by computing developed by the BBC Micro and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and went on into a career in IT that has served me incredibly well over the past 30 years.

“I wanted to see if I could do the same thing and design a piece of kit that would inspire the next generation into the industry. And there didn’t seem to be anything like this around – a comprehensive kit that combines simplicity with a supportive eco system.

“I hope and believe that this will take more people on the same journey that I went on 30 years ago and inspire them into an incredibly exciting and rewarding career.”

The power of the MicroPi comes from that fact that it is built on the strengths of the Raspberry Pi, a UK-built, credit card sized single board computer that has taken the educational world by storm by offering a cheap means for students to get to grips with computer science.

Used with Raspberry Pi, the kit gives learners the ability to play and understand technology known as the ‘Internet of Things’ – the way computers interact with machines and appliances.

Anwar added: “Raspberry Pi is an incredibly versatile tool, however, I felt like it wasn’t being used as effectively as it could be. I reimagined it in a way that was much simpler to use and supported by its own online courses.

“It makes programming accessible and enjoyable and can be used by both beginners and advanced programmers alike. If you can think it, you can build it.”

Following its launch, Anwar hopes the kit will not only support his students’ learning but help many more thousands around the world.

Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College, said: “Every day our students are inspired by tutors like Anwar who are incredibly passionate about their subject.

“It’s no accident that Middlesbrough College has some of the brightest and best teachers from industry backgrounds.

“Anwar’s latest invention proves how invested he is in helping more young people share his passion. It also reflects our own long-term commitment to improving STEM skills.

“Earlier this year, we opened our multi-million-pound, state-of-the-art Digital Centre, which is home to industry-leading programming suites, cyber labs, video editing suites, a games design suite and a full TV and studio movie.

“We hope through our industry-leading facilities and world-class tutors that we can show students how interesting and rewarding a career in digital technology can be. It’s a skillset that now spans so many industries, offering opportunities right here on Teesside and beyond.”

In addition to its specialist STEM status, Middlesbrough College is also part of the North East Institute of Technology.

Having Institute of Technology status gives the promise to its students and employers that the College will deliver high-quality technical qualifications and bespoke training to provide a route for people of all ages and existing employees to gain industry specific skills.

Middlesbrough College is hosting an open event next month where people can find out about courses, take a tour of its multi-million-pound facilities, meet tutors and find out about its student perks – including FREE travel*.

The event takes place at the College in Dock Street, Middlesbrough, on Saturday 5th November from 9:30am to 12 noon. More details can be found at www.mbro.ac.uk

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